Alcoa Can Wait
And now, some news from a place you seldom hear about: Iceland, which is forming the backdrop for the latest skirmish in the battle between conservationists and power companies. The country’s Vatnajokull Glacier is Europe’s second-largest wilderness, and is graced with mountains, lakes, canyons, rivers, and abundant wildlife. Iceland’s national power company wants to harness the billions of gallons of glacial melt off Vatnajokull by building a $3 billion hydropower plant. (That’s about a third of the country’s gross domestic product, by the way.) The plant will have precisely one customer: a smelter owned by Alcoa, the world’s largest aluminum company. Alcoa defends its entry into the Icelandic power market, saying hydropower is at least cleaner than coal. But, noting that the plan would entail damming two of the area’s three virgin rivers, environmentalists say the cost to the pristine region is not worth the handful of jobs the plant and smelter would provide.
Get Grist in your inbox